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Thousands participated in Evanston's Juneteenth commemoration this weekend

Congratulations to Kemone Hendricks of Evanston Present and Future, Jennifer Friedrich of Bon Events, and Tim Rhoze, Bria Walker, and Jazzma Pryor of Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre for putting together an outstanding and memorable inaugural Evanston Juneteenth Parade.

Dear Evanston was honored to have partnered with and supported this gargantuan effort during a time of pandemic that has disproportionately affected members of Black and brown communities, the murders of Black people at the hands of police, and the ensuing protests and urgent calls for racial justice that have magnified the meaning of this till-now relatively unknown but enormously important holiday.

Though Covid-19 caused the celebration and commemoration to be watched on screen instead of bringing the community out en masse to fill Evanston's streets, thousands tuned in to You Tube, Dear Evanston, and Evanston Present and Future to participate, learn, reflect, and enjoy.

On Friday night: a "parade" that featured Grand Marshall 5th ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, tributes to the late, great Hecky Powell (an early and insistent proponent of Juneteenth), dancing, singing, history lessons by Dino Robinson of Shorefront Legacy Center and Willie Shaw of NAACP, and news reporter Christian Farr's outstanding interview with 93-year-old Opal Lee who's pushing to have Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday.

On Saturday night: a Zoom production of A Day of Absence by Douglas Turner Ward, featuring professional actors and community members, and followed by a Q and A with the cast.

Actors Brandon Wright and Raymond Jacquet

In addition, hundreds of Evanstonians came out to Kemone Hendrick's Juneteenth pop-up shops, which highlighted Evanston's Black businesses (they were held at YoFresh, Hecky's, Jamaica Good to Go, and C&W Market and Ice Cream Parlor) to buy yard signs, t-shirts, Black Lives Matter earrings, and more.

On deck: A Juneteenth car parade at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 27 starting at ETHS parking lots 2 and 3, with staging time at 9 a.m! All are encouraged to decorate a car and join in.

Missed the online parade?

You can still see it!

Watch Friday's parade here.

Register to participate in the car parade here.

Finally, I want to share 9th ward Alderman Cicely Fleming's statement about Juneteenth, which is a powerful acknowledgment that while the holiday commemorates the "freeing" of enslaved people, there is much, much more to be done before Black Americans receive true justice.


"I realize this is an odd message to share of this here Juneteenth but let me explain.

Cicely Fleming, 9th ward alderman

First, Juneteenth is the date that stolen Africans were “given” their freedom..... two years after the government “set” them free. I recognize that the end of the chattel slavery was a huge milestone for the US, however, let us never forget that the slaves in TX was illegally forced to work an additional TWO years and this wasn’t b/c TX didn’t get the news.

Second, this new national recognition of Juneteeth comes after the world has been set blaze with protestors after two more Black men were murdered by police. The weeks of protests and riots that we are seeing has left many Americans grasping at anything they can do, say, buy, post on social media to “pursue justice”. The call to celebrate Black freedom seems to contradict the continuation of Black oppression.

Third, Juneteeth 2020 is on the heels of (and in the midst of) a health pandemic that killed more Blacks than whites [sic: disproportionately killed Blacks]; laid bare the countries racial inequities; and pushed wider our racial wealth gap. For the last three months most of our country has been forced to sit with and look at the racial inequities that are usually able to easily ignore.

Lastly, my soul struggles to celebrate the day my ancestors were finally “given” their delayed freedom because I know that even after the orders were given, they were not truly free.

Article 3 reads

“...slaves are free...relationships of former masters and slaves becomes that between employer and hired labor. The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages....they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” So former slaves are now advised to stay with their former masters; work for wages; not allowed to be on military property, and cannot be idle.

What freedom did they gain? What rights did they have? What monies could they earn? What protections did they have? What land did they own?

This Juneteenth, I will celebrate all the adversities that Black folks have overcome. The victories that we’ve made. The mental, physical, and emotional health that we’ve sustained despite all the ways this country has tried to break us.

BUT, this Juneteeth I will not celebrate a delayed emancipation and applaud companies for giving their staff a day off when our pay wages remains lower; our promotions still slower; our voice still ignored; and our ability to not be killed, jailed, or fired depends on the way we “make someone” feel on any given day. If this is freedom, we are all doomed."

--Cicely Fleming, 9th ward alderman


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